K-Movie Series – 2012 to Present

In the last blog post, we mentioned that the Korean film industry experienced a doldrum starting from mid-2000’s.  This situation continued until 2012 which was a turning point for the Korean film industry.  After suffering the lows in late 2000’s, the Korean film industry started to come up with better films which have helped attract more audiences since 2012.

Resurgence from 2012 onwards

In order to attract more audiences, the Korean film-makers tried to produce films with better quality and a diverse range of genres including unconventional subjects and uniquely Korean themes that Hollywood movies could not offer. Their efforts brought good results and 2012 was a turning point for the struggling Korean film industry.

In 2012, Korean movies attracted over 100 million viewers, surpassing the record of 99.6 million set in 2006.  For example, the films, The Thieves (도둑들) and Masquerade (광해: 왕이 된 남자 ), each attracted over 10 million viewers.  The Thieves was a film about the story of a gang of South Korean professional thieves who teamed up with other Chinese thieves to steal a valuable diamond.  Masquerade was a Korean historical film about King Gwanghae and a commoner who stood in for the King until the King who was poisoned fully recovered.

You can watch the trailers of the following movies by clicking the links below:

The Thieves trailer

Masquerade trailer

Other hit movies included Sunny (써니) which was about a reunion of a group of female high school classmates, Architecture 101 (건축학개론) which was a retro melodrama set in the 1990’s with a nostalgic appeal to middle-aged viewers, and Unbowed (부러진 화살) which was about a controversial court case.   In 2012, the market share of Korean films increased to 58.8%, outperforming the mega-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

In 2014, despite the decline of market share to 50.1%, overall speaking, the Korean film industry continued to perform well with over 100 million viewers for the third consecutive year, and annual admissions per capita of 4.19 (which was the second highest in the world).  The best-performing Korean films were Roaring Currents (명량) and The Attorney (변호인), each of which drew more than 10 million viewers.  In particular, Roaring Currents became the all-time best-seller with its admission number exceeding more than one-third of the South Korean population.

Roaring Currents was about the famous Battle of Myeongnyang (명량), in which the national hero, Admiral Yi Sun-shin, defeated the Japanese naval force of over 300 vessels with only 12 warships by taking advantage of the flow of currents in the Myeongnyang Strait.  The Attorney was about the story of the evolution of a materialistic tax lawyer into a true attorney through defending a group of students wrongly accused and tortured by the military government.

You can watch the trailers of the following movies by clicking the following links:

Roaring Currents trailer 1

Roaring Currents trailer 2

The Attorney trailer

On the other hand, in 2014, diversity films attracted a record level of 14 million viewers.  In particular, My Love, Don’t Cross That River (님아, 그 강을 건너지 마오) which was a documentary about an old couple’s story of heart-warming love and death attracted 3.85 million viewers, the highest ever for diversity films.  You can watch this movie’s trailer here.

One notable trend was the growth of the digital online market led by IPTV and digital cable TV (i.e., TV VOD).  With increasing subscriptions, the market share of TV VOD in this market jumped from 44.3% in 2010 to 75.8% in 2014 while that of Internet VOD dropped from 24% in 2010 to 16.7% in 2014.

In 2014, exports of the Korean film industry continued the rising trend since 2011, amounting to about US$63 million. China became the biggest importer of Korean films with exports to China hitting a record amount of US$8.21 million. This was due to the continued sale of Korean film rights in the digital online market, increased distribution revenue from local branches, and heated competition among Chinese companies for Korean films featuring star actors.

This completes the brief review of the Korean film industry from its birth to present and is for the time being the last blog post for the K-Movie Series.   You may refer to the “Related Blog Posts” section below for previous blog posts in this K-Movie Series. The films mentioned in this K-Movie Series are regarded as classic or representative films of the Korean film industry.  So, if you have time over the weekend, you may watch at least one of them on the internet to enjoy the K-movie culture.  Happy watching! 🙂

Reminder: The next blog post will be published on 18 June 2015.  Watch this space!


Related Blog Posts

K-Movie Series – The Birth of Korean Movie” dated 2 June 2015

K-Movie Series – Golden Age in the 1950’s and 1960’s” dated 4 June 2015

K-Movie Series – 1970’s and 1980’s” dated 9 June 2015



Korean Film Council, Status & Insight: Korean Film Industry 2014

Jennifer Rousse-Marquet, “The unique story of the South Korean film industry“, ina global, 2013-10-07

Enterprise, not gov’t protection, helped film industry flourish“, The Chosun Ilbo, 2012-11-21

Daniel Tudor, Korea: The impossible country, Tokyo; Rutland, Vermont; Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2012, pp. 229-239

Darcy Paquet, “A short history of Korean film“, Koreanfilm.org, 2007-03-01

The king, the clown and the quota“, The Economist, 2006-02-16

Kim Mee-hyun (ed.), Korean Cinema: from origins to renaissance, Korean Film Council, 2006

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